My take on Social Issues

A long, hard look at Satyamev jayate

“I am not an activist, I am an entertainer”, says Aamir Khan, when lavished with praises of social uprightness for his show Satyamev Jayate. And this honesty is indeed commendable.

ENTERTAINER. One who, as per Oxford Dictionary, provides amusement and enjoyment, to others. What essentially Aamir Khan and his team are doing through Satyamev Jayate is that they are aiming to fulfill some particular emotional/ psychological needs/ wants/ desires of the audience. Emotional needs – the need to empathize with our fellow human beings and their sufferings, which is inherent in us all. There are sufferings about which the middle class keeps getting hazy bits of information from various sources, but seldom gets anything specific or concrete. Harassed women, sexually abused boys pouring forth their own tales to an empathetic Aamir fills up this vacuum.

The need to understand exactly how much corrupt our system is, gets satisfied through live footages of doctors aborting babies as a matter of routine.

A hidden need to feel a connect with our fellow people when the community lives of yesteryears are gone and people suffer more and more from loneliness, gets satisfied when all of ‘us’ watch this show ‘together’, either live in the studio or on our TV sets – and share the anger, the grief, the disgust, the helplessness, together.

And most significantly, by taking the program to every nook and cranny of India, by telecasting it in various regional languages, on prime time, and then asking the people to SMS/ email/ write to them, with the promise that those will be petitioned to the Government; by asking people to donate, with the promise that an equal amount will be added by the philanthropy partner, makes people get rid, in a small, but significant measure of the one feeling that keeps gnawing at us.

The feeling of guilt.

Guilt. Of seeing it all, and doing nothing. Of getting sloshed in masala entertainment after coming home from a tiring day at work. Of forcing ourselves to forget the ‘social initiatives’ and NGOs we once started in our college days.

By giving us a channel to express ourselves in front of the Government, and by giving us a reliable NGO to donate to, Aamir helps us absolve of some of that guilt.

In return, he makes Rs. 3 crore per episode. Entertainment, after all, is a very serious business.

If someone crowns Aamir as a great social crusader, which is what is happening right now, one should take it with a pinch of salt. It is NOT social activism. If anything, this business of Aamir has, what we call in economic terminology, a positive externality.

It has a positive side effect. It is like a factory which instead of spewing net poisonous gases in the atmosphere, causing a net pollution to water sources and laying to net waste precious agricultural land, emits pure oxygen, and spreads good vibes and empathy around.

And for that positive externality, and just that, Aamir deserves praise from the nation.

Sourced from my work done for Sharda University blog:

Categories: Analysis, Critique | 3 Comments

How our lives have changed!

Change is the only thing constant in the world. But with the breathtaking (or breakneck) pace of growth of technology in the past thirty years or so, the world and people’s lives have been changing faster now than probably at any time during history.

Changes bring about differences between eras, and the life of a student passing out from a place like IIIT/ IIT today is vastly different from one passing out, say, ten years ago. The flow of time will bring about more changes, and life of an average student will be different ten years from now. This post is a humble effort to see some of the differences between the lives of us/ our seniors/ our juniors.

On our part, we do not know a world without:

1. Internet: From your daily life, try to subtract academic Google search, non-academic Google search, Gtalk chats, blogs, and DC++. No, don’t continue reading. Stop. And imagine.

Difficult, isn’ it?

Were we born about ten years ago, we would have passed through college without using the internet. I’m not passing any value judgment whether it would have been for better or for worse, but it surely would have been a totally different ‘you’. In what ways, can you imagine?

2. Mobile phone: Okay, there would have been a few more STD phones in the hostel, and things would have been just fine as long as talking home is concerned. But I wonder how the girl/ boy friends of the previous generation fulfilled their urges, given that there was no GTalk, either.

For those who work for things like these, imagine managing Felicity without cellphone.

3. Corporate jobs:
The late Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh opened up India’s economy in 91. Its effects on the lives of people like ourselves started being noticed in the lae 90s, when people started getting fat salaries, and things like ‘placement’ and ‘package’ suddenly found a place in almost every Indian dictionary.

Suddenly, the demand for a seat in IIT/ IIM skyrocketed, coaching centres mushroomed and our parents started tailored our lives so as to make us maximum suitable for a seat in IIT/ IIM.

Hard to imagine people like ourselves starting our careers at about half the salaries of our fathers and IITs being just a wee bit more than any other colleges, isn’t it?

In addition, our juniors won’t know a world without:

4. Digi/ mobile cam: By the time you leave from college, you all will have in excess of 1 GB of pics. Maybe even ten times that. And without having directly paid for a single shot.

A few years ago, there used to be 36 shots cameras, and people had to pay about 10 bucks apiece for every single shot. This is something we have seen, but the kids coming up in the next few years will find hard to imagine. Just like we find hard to imagine a world minus internet and mobile phones. .

5. Dish TV.
It came about in the early 90s. Some of us remember how it was like to live with, and love the good ol’ Doordarshan. I, on my part, grew up without a TV in my home for the major part of my childhood. Try telling that to a 22-year old ten years from now.

6. IPL/ T20 cricket. Some of us may scoff at it, but for the kids growing up now, probably this is THE cricket.

Faster, more resourceful life with many more physical comforts. But is it necessarily more enriching?

Changes will come, and it’s impossible to predict how and when, as all it takes is one bright idea (out of potentially millions) to revolutionize the world. Here’s to those changes, and to the hope that collectively they be for the better of our world!

PS: If there are more points you might want to add, I throw open the comments section to you 🙂

Categories: Critique | 5 Comments

A new blog?

I was thinking of planning a new blog. A long way back when this blog was started, I had no distinct vision for it. With all due respect to the three years younger Aniket, he was probably too immature and nascent to think about things like ‘distinct vision’ and stuff. So this blog started. As my thoughts found an outlet, they flew in more and more freely and found their place on this blog. All kinds of thoughts and observations (from personal interests like music and athletics to philosophy to social commentary) made their way here. In between were a few works of fiction, too.

Some time back, there started coming some creative literary ideas in my head. And this blog started acquiring a literary shape. Soon I began to notice a certain reluctance in myself in writing random/ general/ non-literary posts, as it might destroy the specific ‘literary’ character of my blog.

I finally decided that it wasn’t good to stub out my thoughts and not take up non-literary themes. Also, that the majority of posts have been literary in nature and that this newly acquired character should be preserved. So, there should  be a separate blog for non-literary, personal kind of posts.

Quite a few questions arose after I decided to create another post. Okay, the literary works will be here on this blog. What about the past non-literary works? I decided to shift them to the new blog, too.

“What about the comments, then?”  “Okay, even they will be shifted.”

“Wait, this doesn’t seem right!” “Hell, not all things are supposed to be right, Okay!”

But then there were practical issues. People might have bookmarked, or at least identified some of the posts, and might want to visit them again. This partition ends that possibility, however remote it may be. Also, the blog records would be disturbed. Finally I thought I’d keep the older posts where they were and start posting personal posts on a different blog.

Now, what separates a personal post from a literary post? Are my travelogues literary? Of course. Are they not personal? Like hell they are. What about some of the philosophy? It makes for some good literary reading (by my standards), but is also intensely personal. What about the stories? Even they are written from personal experiences, and express personal angst.

“Is it really possible to tell where ‘personal’ ends and ‘literary’ begins? Can I really draw a line here?”

An island was inhabited by aborigines. They weren’t much advanced, and took life as it came. Soon, colonisers came and occupied the island. They brought with them their religion, their culture and their science. As others from their original place found that here was a place of opportunity, they started coming in droves. Soon the immigrants outnumbered the aborigines. Their leaders now started oppressing the aborigines. They told them that the island had a distinct culture, and that they, the aborigines did not fit into it. Therefore they had to leave, or they would be driven out.

In another such island, the aborigines were stronger. They were still in majority in certain areas. They successfully demanded a separate country from themselves.

But the differences between the communities hadn’t been as clear cut. The aborigines and the colonisers had come in contact, and adapted from each others’ ways. Many rituals and cultural traits were common. Some people had intermarried and had mixed kids. These kids had traits common to both aborigines and immigrants and if was impossible to tell which was which.

It was, therefore, impossible to partition one community completely from the other. Such a partition could never have the exactness of a surgical operation. Surgical operations can never be performed on two intertwined creepers. Such creepers, if separated, are bound to bleed for a long, long time. The wounds can often get septic, and become incurable diseases.

Just like Kashmir has become for India and Pakistan. And it is paining like hell these days. Even harder is the pain of the Kashmiri Pandits, who were driven out of their homeland despite being one with the majority Muslim population, just because some people thought that they didn’t fit in the overall character of the valley.

I’ve decided that my blog will stay as it is. And I wish certain other decisions were up to me.

Categories: Critique, Relationships | 12 Comments

Modi vs Hitler

I think some interesting parrallels can be drawn between Adolf Hitler and Narendra Modi. Some I can think of are:

1.Physical attributes: Hitler was around 5’8” tall, with average build. Modi (although a bit on the heavier side) also has a similar frame, which is a very common apearance actually.

2. Religious beliefs: Hitler was a devout christian, who praised christianity several times during his public apprearances. Modi, of course is a devout Hindu.

3. Vegetarians: Hitler turned vegetarian, which was highly unusual for a person in his time and place. Modi, it appears has always been a vegetarian. While Hitler is supposed to be have been a lover of animals, Modi reportedly considers a vegetarian diet an essential for body and soul and considers eating non-vegetarian food a resource intensive activity that burdens the resources of the world.

4. Fiery Speakers: Those who have heard him, have reported Hitler to be the fieriest speaker ever to walk this earth. I wouldn’t go that far with Modi, but from the video footages, and with whatever Gujarati I know, I can definitely say that when Modi addresses his rallies in Gujarat in chaste Gujarati, the masses have to love him. He could affect just by his gestures and mannerisms even those not knowing the language. If only words could kill, Sohrabuddin, Afzal Guru and Sonia Gandhi would have dropped dead by now. Also would have died of heart stopping several of the swooning youngsters and women who hang on to every anecdote, every remark, every roar uttered by Modi.

5. Self centered individualists: Hitler married his fiance only during the final days of ww-2; Modi has so far remained a bachelor. (Although there have been rumors linking him to a woman). Hitler shunned his father’s family, while Modi’s siblings etc. have several times rued in public that fact that ‘Narendrabhai’ doesn’t do them any favours. Both are reported to have no or very little number of close friends. Both come across as strong workaholics, too much engrossed in their ‘work’ to pay any attention to anyone else.

Some similarities regarding their style of working/ ideologies:
6. Rise to power: Hitler rose to power in the aftermath of the first world war, when Germans needed a strong leader whom they could trust to win back their pride for them. Modi’s era began after the average Hindu in Gujarat, who had been feeling insecure after the Godhra episode found an iron man in Modi. Both rose, because of a community’s insecurity.

7. Invoking regional identities: Hitler did it with the ideals of ‘Pure Aryan Race’, and ‘German pride’. Modi is doing it with the slogans of ‘Gujarati Asmita’. Both cut ice among the masses of the region concerned. While Hitler was hailed as the ‘saviour of Germany’, Modi is being called the ‘Messiah of Gujarat’. I personally do not have any ground information, and the Gujarat election results are yet to come in, but if the media reports are anything to go by, the hysteria surrounding Modi is unprecedented of any politician in Gujarat.

8. Intolerance of a certain community: If the media reports coming in from Gujarat are anything to go by, Modi sure goes at least some distance with Hitler along this road. Various media have reported about the alleged ‘Governement hand’ in the post-Godhra riots in north and central Gujarat, in which over 1000 Muslims were put to death. There have been reports of the Muslim community having been completely sidelined from the mainstream in Gujarat. Hitler of course was light years ahead of Modi. He’s been hailed responsible for the death of 6 million jews.

9. Autocratic ways: Hitler was the undisputed Fuhrer. The Chancellor and the General of the German military. And his clout far transcended the limits of the posts he held.
Modi has grown larger than anything in such an organisation which lays emphasis on collective effort and collective credit. Everything else has been sidelined, and the only issue that remains in Gujarat is Modi. He’ s not just a Chief Minister, he’s an autocratic monarch of Gujarat.

Modi might not have it in him to become a mass murderer like Hitler; drawing any conclusion from these observations alone would be impossible. Also we must not forget that Hitler’s rise to power was triggered by an incidence much, much stronger than what propelled Modi to pwer, and as such, Modi’s power far lacks the absoluteness of Hitler’s, who held an entire nation at his whim. Still it was quite an interesting thought process which culminated into this article.

Categories: Critique | 4 Comments

Chaos at MSU, Baroda

Many of you must be following the drama ensuing at the prestigious Fine Arts Faculty, Maharao Sayaji University, Baroda with some concern.

It’s the same university where a student, Chandra Mohan was arrested for allegedly making some “indecent” paintings of Hindu and Christian gods and thus “disturbing the peace and harmony of the city of Vadodara”.

People have different opinions on this issue. Some people question the limits of the right to freedom that an artist has. But here, the point to be noted is that the paintings made by the artist were not on public display, but for an exhibition for the students and teachers of the university. (Sort of like our R&D showcase, minus the formal inviations we send to the press and to other institutes). They were made as practical examination assignments, and as such, no one had any right whatsoever to judge them except for the course evaluator/instructor. Since the paintings were not on display for general public, the question for upsetting any decency or hurting religious sentiments or disturbing peace does not arise. Any such accusations against the painting, therefore, completely baseless.

Word about the paintings being “indencent” somehow and got out, and some local leaders of the ruling party took it upon themsleves to “clean up” their surroundings. For this purpose, they forcefully entered the faculty where the exhibition was being held, bashed up the student (according to eyewitnesses) and racuously abused the faculty and students present there. Since they were from the ruling party, they as well got the police on the scene, and got the student arrested.

I think it’s very clear that neither the local leaders, nor the police had any right to pass judgements upon the paintings made for a course examination. One person to do so was the Dean, Fine Arts Faculty, eminent art historian Professor Shivaji Pannikar. And what happened when he said he found nothing wrong with the paintings?

He was arrested on god-knows-what charges. Not just that, even suspended from university services by an administration which seems to be a mere puppet in the hands of the extremists sitting in the government. Later released on bail, he still as of now stands suspended. The students of the university are fighting an uphill battle against the shamelessly biased puppet university administration to get their beloved professor back in service. They’re raging a fierce protest. Some students got arrested on god-knows-what charges a few days back. Many others are on hunger strike. The scholarly art students of the best art university in the country are facing stand-offs with the riff raff youth wing of the ruling party. Threats etc. have now become commonplace for them.

In their hour of trouble, I think we should extend our whole hearted support for them, as students for students. I’ve planned a signature campaign. A write up will be prepared expressing our solidarity for our counterparts in the Fine Arts Faculty, MSU. Every IIITian is expected to sign it, and it will be express delivered (sent by tuesday)to some of my friends in the Fine Arts Faculty who’re leading the protests over there.

This might seem trivial, but in times of difficulty, even the smallest word of encouragement from unexpected quarters is a big confidence booster. This small gesture of ours will be highly apprecialted and welcomed by the protesting MSU studnets. Let’s show them we are with them.

PS: All those with me on this issue can drop a comment or let me know otherwise. I’ll be getting back to them for their signatures.

PPS: For full details on this issue, please read

Categories: Critique | 11 Comments

Are we facing the demise of newspapers…???

If one sees this question in the light of the present scene in India, where a large populace still does not even have access to newspapers, the answer would be a NO. Flat and loud. As long as India is a developing country (and it is likely to remain so for a long, long time), newspapers will actually grow and prosper. No doubt about that.

Then why did I ask this question?

Let’s narrow down the ‘doamin’ a bit. Let’s just restrict our thinking to ourselves. By ourselves I mean, the people who have access to internet resources, and need the net like air, water and food. Will it be curtains to the newspaper for people like us?

Let’s think practically. We read newspapers to keep ourselves updated about what is happening in the world. The information that we get from the paper is atleast a day old. In this age of ‘instant’ communication, how relevant is a source of information which gives you the news that is a day, sometimes even 2 days late? (take any d/n match of this world cup, and wou’ll see what I mean.)

We read newspapers not just for ‘information’, but for ‘knowledge’, too. Many articles, especially the editiorials are meant to make you ‘think’ about them. But what if we have an online version of the paper available? The ‘knowledge’ can still be gained. What’s even more, a recent survey in the US has found out, that of all the people who read news online, more people actually finish reading an article once they’ve started with on the net (75%), than those people who read the broad-sheet newspaper(about 55%). This, the survey feels, can be attributed to the fact that when people read stuff online, they are looking at only a single article at a time so they’re more likely to go through all of it, whereas in a broadsheet newspaper, as soon as you get slightly bored with the article you’re reading, your attention gets drifted to the other headlines and graphics present on the two sheets you’re facing, and there goes the article out of the window. This is what the surveyors felt, and I agree with them, for sometimes this happens with me, too.

Ads? Can be given on the net, too. No question about that. Once the online version of the paper has readership equivalent to, or more than it’s offline version, it really doesn’t matter where you’re giving your ad.

To improve their readabilty, the broadsheet newspapers can improve their graphics, can highlight the important headlines better. But so can a news site do, by making a separate column like ‘BREAKING NEWS’ and adding even better graphics. Reading online puts enormous strain on the eye, did anybody say that? Well, we’re getting better and better screens every year. In the very near future, such screens are bound to be available at low cost which’ll be as comfortable to read from as a broadsheet. Better quality of journalism? Well, good journalists, like any other professionals, are always up for sale. Any news company which pays good money, can have a good quality staff, irrespective of whether it outputs news online or on a broadsheet.

I don’t have anything against the newspaper. In any case, the internet still touches only the creme-de-la-creme of only urban India, and newspapers are not going to be out of circulation for quite a long, long time. But think of the situation where internet is available at low cost to everyone, everywhere.

People like myself will still read the newspaper. Why, it’s a part of my life! Reading one is a thing that I’ve been doing as the first thing in the morning for the past ten years or more, and nothing is as refreshing as the smell and feel of a fresh newspaper in my hand. But remember, in my formative years, I did NOT have access to the net.

The next geneartion won’t be so romantic about the good ol’ paper. The net will be the first thing they will notice in their lives, and they will consider the paper as old-fashioned, outdated and probably useless as well. They won’t know the joy of lying back in a chair, with a cup of tea in one hand, the other hand balancing the paper, mind fully relaxed, and getting ready for the day’s work. The newspaper is bound to lose value as soon as the generation 10-15 years younger than us grows up. And for people like us, that’ll be demise of the newspaper.

Categories: Critique | 1 Comment

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